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Biggest Disruption to Defence in Decades is on the Way

Australian Army soldier Craftsman Cameron Powell from 1st Aviation Regiment moves the 30mm cannon on a Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter at Robertson Barracks in Darwin. Australian Defence Force.

Hopes the Defence Strategic Review will deliver on ‘aggressive system overhaul’.

Delayed, downsized and defunded projects are among the biggest concerns for businesses bidding for defence contracts, but there’s an even more pressing point as the Australian Government considers its biggest military shakeup in decades – ‘the bureaucratic red tape has to go’. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was handed the final version of a Defence Strategic Review by former Defence Force Chief Angus Houston and former Defence Minister Stephen Smith in February. By May – and in time for the latest budget – an unclassified version is expected to be made public.

Citing the need to ‘be informed by intelligence and strategic assessments of the most concerning threats which challenge Australia’s security’, the government has even more to contend with since the report was commissioned in August 2022.

Defence Industry stakeholders argue this is exactly why an aggressive approach to contract procurements is needed.

“I’m hoping that the review provides some clarity and certainty in the government’s direction,” says Anthony Smith of Dyadic Consultancy.

“Because it would seem in the last couple of terms at least, Defence has been short-term goal oriented.”

“For some of the larger companies that I’ve spoken to, for them to be able to invest the sorts of money that needs to be invested, they need more certainty around some of those larger projects.”

Anthony referenced multiple projects which could directly benefit North Queensland’s economy, including the long-awaited LAND 400 project to secure hundreds more armoured infantry fighting vehicles, which would require servicing for up to 30 years.

The major overhaul of Army Aviation has also opened the door of opportunity for North Queensland with its Brigade Headquarters to be based at RAAF Base Townsville. This comes amid the largest shakeup of its fleet in two decades with Defence set to replace its underperforming European Tiger and Taipan helicopters with Apache and Black Hawk helicopters from the US.

The war in Ukraine has given ammunition to those arguing Australia needs to become more agile in how
it responds to protecting the nation in more ways than just Defence funding.

Former Army Engineering Officer Rob Sutton founded Mirragin – a technology company which specialises in robotics, artificial intelligence and drones.

He says the Defence Strategic Review presents a rare opportunity to disrupt antiquated government processes across multiple industries.

“An artificial intelligence system that can count and categorise soybeans for example, could be the very same technology used for detecting missiles that might be aimed at our cities,” he says.

“So, there’s a lot of opportunity to develop technologies that are useful in agriculture, in mining and in defence.”

“An investment in that technology for defence purposes not only protects critical infrastructure but also benefits the economy because it’s benefiting those other sectors as well.”

His remarks followed a stark warning from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in February which revealed Australia was facing an unprecedented challenge from espionage and foreign interference.

Then there was the announcement of Australia’s first Cyber Agency to fight against mass cyber attacks by state-sponsored hackers and criminal gangs.

“This will be a very wide-ranging report with the possibility of some significant disruption,” Rob says.

“The threat environment has changed significantly. And technology has changed significantly, and we need to move a lot faster.

“We need to take some risk now to invest in sovereign industries so we’re not reliant on overseas supply chains.”

An Australian Army M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carrier drops soldiers from the 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, into an attack during Exercise Predators Run 2022 at Mount Bundey Training Area. Australian Defence Force.
An Australian Army M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carrier drops soldiers from the 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, into an attack during Exercise Predators Run 2022 at Mount Bundey Training Area.

Main image: Australian Army soldier Craftsman Cameron Powell from 1st Aviation Regiment moves the 30mm cannon on a Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

Image credits: All images supplied by the Australian Defence Force.

Read our earlier article from our January 2023 issue – Keeping Defence Moving in the North.

Kate Banville

Kate Banville

Kate is a freelance writer who draws on her personal experience as a seven-year Army veteran to report on matters relevant to the defence community. Her work often appears in the Guardian, ABC News, Country Caller, Australian Veteran News and News.com.au.
Kate Banville

Kate Banville

Kate is a freelance writer who draws on her personal experience as a seven-year Army veteran to report on matters relevant to the defence community. Her work often appears in the Guardian, ABC News, Country Caller, Australian Veteran News and News.com.au.